There was never a storm like it – not in all the 87 years of its existence. Never has there been the cancellation of a day’s events. Despite the fact that the Annual Ploughing Championships is held annually around the Autumn equinox such a storm as Ali was unique.
There have been years when the rain was challenging! The challenge was met with powerful water pumps which removed surface water from the 600-acre site. It is the largest outdoor event in Europe drawing Farmers and Farm Suppliers from every corner of the continent. The expected attendance of 300,000 over the 3 days was curtailed by Ali.
The gusting winds’ destruction was so severe that the middle day, Wednesday, had to be cancelled and, to partially compensate, the event continued on Friday. Total attendance was better than expected at 240,000 but the damaged tents and exhibits will have proved costly for the organisers and exhibitors alike.
This is an occasion where city and rural populations meet. You know it is so when you see politicians shaking hands with everyone they come across! They were added to by the candidates for the Presidential election – due in a month’s time. The President, who officially opened the event, and his wife were there. His opening speech managed to incorporate the inaugural speech of his campaign as he is looking for another 7- year term in the office!
The one part of the programme which was not affected by the weather was the ploughing competitions which give their name to the event. They take place in neighbouring fields and involves both horses and tractors to do the work. When it started in 1931 it set out to stimulate an interest in tillage farming. It certainly did that and Ireland has a record of winning the World Championship in the various ploughing competitions. In every case the furrow being opened has to be straight. It is necessary to have a marker on the far side of the field and to keep your eye on it. Looking back would cause the plough to veer from the straight line and ruin the furrow.
In outlining the cost of discipleship Jesus used the illustration of the ploughman who having started to plough must not look back. The decision to follow Jesus in the three cases instanced by Jesus in St Luke Chapter 9 verses 57 to 62 had a ‘but’ added qualifying the decision. They had started to plough but were not putting Jesus first. A better illustration is Matthew who left his business and followed Jesus (St Luke Chapter 5 verse 28).
St Paul writes (Romans Chapter 8 verses 28/30 & 38/39) with the confidence of a man who, once converted, never looked back: –
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?… For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
When the call comes don’t look back!